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Team Norwegian's Celebratory AMA

As promised, we're now holding a celebratory AMA. Feel free to ask us about anything that's (at least tangentially) related to the Norwegian course, and we'll answer as best we can!

Please make sure that your question hasn't already been asked or answered in the thread before posting. :)


Questions? cat picture

August 4, 2015



Are y'all thinking about a Norwegian 2.0 tree?


Thinking about it? We dream about it every night! ;)

We're already planning what we want to change in tree 2.0, but we do have to graduate from beta first. Then it's up to Duo to either finish up some testing they're currently doing on tree versioning, or choose us as testers.


Awesome! I'm very excited and I wish you and your team best of luck!!


Thank you, we appreciate it! :)


I can confirm that we are very intent on beginning this project as soon as humanly possible! The sooner we are able to clean up what we need to in this tree and add some very helpful words, the better.


Fantastisk! I'm looking forward to see all the great work I know y'all will do! Thanks for all your time you put in to make such a great course! Tusen takk!


It's our pleasure! Bare hyggelig!

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How did you manage to include so many useful and practical phrases and expressions? There is some great stuff in the Norwegian tree!


Flattery disguised as a question? I like it! ;)

The secret to adding many useful phrases is... making a really long tree.

In addition to that, I think it's important to note that we were all language learners first, giving us a good idea of what we would want from a course like this. We also had extensive experience with other Duolingo courses prior to working on the Norwegian course, which both familiarised us with the tree structure and gave us plenty of inspiration to draw on.

Luke also has experience with teaching himself Norwegian, which makes him uniquely qualified to single out the things that we as natives may not even realise need to be taught.

I think the ability to think like a learner is key to being a good teacher.


Hi as a new learner of Norwegian, and a native of English, would love it if the alphabet was in the earliest Lessons. Mostly to learn how to say the letters and letter combinations. So hard for me to understand the sounds in the very first words. When I first learned Spanish as an adult the alphabet was one of the biggest helps ever. Thank you so much. Sincerely yours, Linda L. Dreier


While it's not part of the first lesson, one of the sticky conversations contains a link to a Norwegian pronunciation guide on Wikipedia. It uses IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet), but also gives examples via common English words. Here's a link to said Wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA_for_Norwegian


Do you know when there will be bonus skills? :)


No, it's so top secret that nobody has any idea! Bonus skills are serious business.


We are able to test them now, which is promising news.


What was the easiest part about constructing the course? The hardest? :D


Hmm, that's actually a very good question.

One of the most challenging things about constructing the tree is that everything is connected; the words are tied together through the sentences they share, so the more words we add the more rigid the tree becomes. Because of this, doing seemingly simple things like moving a single word from one skill to another can actually be a quite a puzzle! This means that planning ahead becomes very important.

The easiest part for me is finding the motivation for working on the tree! I might complain about it being a bit of a puzzle, but then again... I quite like puzzles. I also love coming up with entertaining sentences, and learning new things about both English and Norwegian every single day. Then there's the added bonus of getting to interact with the rest of my team, as well as with our lovely learners. And last, but not least: the pleasure of creating something that feels worthwhile. :)


Will I be able to read Knausgård's Min Kamp in the original Norwegian after completing this tree? It is so good in English that I am willing to learn another language.


With ease? No.
With a dictionary and some dedication? Absolutely!

I haven't read his books, but skimming through a couple of excerpts the language is simple enough. Assuming you actually know the course vocabulary when you complete the tree, I think you'd get the gist of what's written in the books, but you'd still run into a lot of new words.

I think you need a good dose of stubbornness to get through your first book in any language, but if you have it in you then it's a great way to learn - and a very rewarding experience. :)


When did you guys first individually realize that language was your passion? Has it always been a given or did it come unexpectedly?


I've always enjoyed language as a tool for expressing myself, for learning new things, and for connecting with people, cultures, and times past.

I think the first time I experienced real passion for learning a language, not merely seeing it as a tool or an extension of something else, was when I took Latin in high school. Never before, or after, have I had such a passionate, compassionate, knowledgeable and wise teacher as I had in that subject. I'm still in awe!


I remember wanting to learn Latin in middle school because I thought it was the "smart language." Then some guy at the tennis courts where I took lessons dissuaded me from going down that road, telling me, "you can't read a Latin newspaper, or listen to the radio in Latin." This made me think that French, which my mom and sister took in school, was a better option. Although I took French for many years, I only got very good at it after discovering Eddie Izzard performing standup in French, and that's when I caught the language bug. Knowing very little and then realizing you know more is a wonderful feeling.


As a Norwegian, what are your thoughts about the Swedish, Danish, and Icelandic tongues?


The Swedish dialects are pretty varied, but most of them sound pleasant to my ear and are easy enough to understand.

Danish, well... what's usually said is that they speak as if they've got a potato stuck in their throats, and I tend to agree. ;) Having said that, I just finished watching a Danish TV series that I really enjoyed (Rita), so Danish sounds pretty normal to me atm.

Icelandic keeps staying true to its roots, and while I think it sounds pretty badass I often struggle to understand it when spoken at a native speed. In written form I can usually piece it together, but that may be partly because I've been exposed to quite some Old Norse through my studies. There's also a lot of good Icelandic music!


what's usually said is that they speak as if they've got a potato stuck in their throats, and I tend to agree. ;)

Haha ;D


I have heard the Danish=potato thing for years, but have never heard Icelandic=BADASS before. Brilliant!

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What do Norwegians think about different dialects? Are certain ones considered especially beautiful, or funny, or weird?


I think that's pretty individual.

Personally I like dialects that are a bit soft around the edges, and am less fond of dialects using skarre-r. Maybe it has to do with what I grew up with, maybe not. To complicate things I think some dialects sound better on men, and other better on women.

Whether I like a dialect also depends on whether I like the people who speak it. I've always found people from the northern part of Norway to be very friendly, warm, and easy going, and I'm also partial to their dialects. :)


Also, if they buy a round of drinks their dialect will sound instantly better.

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I'd love to hear some examples of what sounds good on men vs. women, and the ones you term "soft around the edges."


Sogning sounds better on men than women to me, while Østlandsdialekt sounds better on women than men to me. Not to say that either of them sound bad on the other sex, it's just a slight preference. :)


Are there sometimes problems understanding each other because of the dialects? In Dutch it's not uncommon that people don't understand certain dialects, so we tend to adapt our language depending to who we're talking with. Is that also the case in Norway?


Sure, there are dialect specific words that aren't going to be universally understood by other Norwegians, and, if needed, most people will modify how they speak either consciously or subconsciously to be understood.

Aside from those dialect specific words, Norwegian dialects are close enough that we have little trouble communicating. They often sound more different than they are, because of different endings or intonation, but the words are similar enough for us to recognise. Norwegians are also bombarded with all sorts of dialects through the media, so we're quite accustomed to a variety of them. :)

The older generations often have heavier dialects, while the younger generations tend to have more watered down or mixed dialects.


Are any of you connected with CLV in Minnesota?


I knew a few people who were counselors there, including at the Norwegian camp. I applied to be a German counselor, but I never was accepted. It's a cool idea.


Schade - Sicher ihr Fehler ;-)


In your opinion, do you think that the Elfdalian language is just a dialect of Swedish or Norwegian like people say it is?


I would say that it's sufficiently different to qualify as a language of its own, but I'm hardly the most qualified person to have tackled that question. ;)

Whether something is defined and accepted as a separate language rather than a dialect often ends up having more to do with politics than linguistics.


Thanks for investing your time into this course. From the moment I heard of Duolingo I kept my fingers crossed for a Norwegian course.

The lessons are fantastic though I always struggle slightly with the listening exercises, how do you rate the Duolingo voice/pronunciation in terms of accuracy?


Thank you, it's a pleasure! :)

The TTS is far from perfect, and butchers a handful of words completely, but I think we've managed to disable the listening exercises for most of the sentences with really poor audio by now. Thankfully, the majority of sentences sound perfectly fine - if at times slightly robotic.

One thing the TTS struggles with is separating present tense verbs from nouns that are written in the same way, which makes the intonation sound a bit off to natives. "skriver" the present tense verb, and "skriver" the noun should sound slightly different. However, this is not something that trips learners up on listening exercises, as it is written the same way regardless, and the differences in pronunciation is minimal to begin with.

Generally, learners seem to struggle the most with listening exercises where the TTS is correctly dropping letters. "Hunden" is an example of this, because the "d" is either softened or dropped completely, and the "e" is dropped as well.

With these sorts of words we see people getting better results once they're past the first checkpoint and have developed more of an ear for the language They learn to distinguish between long and short sounds, between some of the Norwegian vowels that may initially sound a bit too similar to each other, and become more aware of how the words are stressed.


Certain pronunciations drive me crazy during the slowed down speech option. No matter how carefully I listen, the word "en" always sounds like "em" and the word "om" always sounds like "ob". At normal speeds these words sound just as they should. This really threw me off when I was just beginning. I am more or less attuned to it now, but I still find it annoying.


Agreed, the TTS is generally weaker when it comes to pronouncing separate words than it is with words in the context of a sentence. The slow version treats the words as separate entities, and also tends to draw out the shorter ones quite comically at times.


Are you planning on creating an English course for speakers of Norwegian?


We do not have any plans to at this time, for a few reasons.


Yea just one (or two cleverly disguised as one) ;) Hows your cats and do they speak Norwegian? XD


Long time no see, Annie! Welcome back. :)

My cats are well, thank you for asking. While I suspect one of them of understanding Norwegian, neither of them speak it. They seem to speak two very different dialects of Cat.


Gratulerer med kursen! Det er flott! Jeg önsker DuoLingo-skjorte för mannen min. Han elsker DuoLingo ogsaa. How can I get it (for christmas)? I saw it on facebookpicture.


Tusen takk, I'm glad you like it!

You can order the t-shirts here. :)

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Dessverre kan mann ikke betale med lingoter ;)


How would you convince a complete stranger to start learning Norwegian?


I would bribe them, with melkesjokolade.

Norwegian milk chocolate bar


That looks delicious! :)


Do you think there will be a 'Words' tab like some courses have to test your vocabulary?


I know that's something Duo wishes to bring to all courses, but that it requires quite a bit of work.

The old "in-houses" courses, which are the ones that currently have 'Words' tabs, are built on an elaborate tagging system which tags every lexeme according to its grammatical function(s). The current 'Words' tabs utilise this system.

The new, volunteer made courses do not have this elaborate tagging system, so Duo can't just copy over the same 'Words' tab and flash card code and have it work as intended.


ok, good to know takk

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